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Appeal launched for local veteran's injured service dog

Niagara Gazette - 11/16/2023

Nov. 16—Tiffany Palmer of Lockport is a combat veteran who battles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her dog Rocky, trained through Western New York Heroes to be her service dog, was hit by a car and seriously injured this past June.

Rocky was diagnosed with a punctured lung and the veterinary bill came to $9,000. Palmer turned to GoFundMe for help paying the bill. As of late Thursday morning, $1,800 had been raised.

While Palmer is entitled to VA medical benefits, treatment for her service dog is not covered. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, "Currently there is not enough research to know if dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms."

The VA has started a study to determine whether dogs do help those with PTSD, but the results are several years away, the agency said on its website.

In the meantime, organizations such as the Veterans One-stop Center and the Niagara County Veteran Service Agency say they cannot pair veterans with animals to help.

"There is nothing in our repertoire to file for disability that requires a service dog," VSA director Jeff Glatz said.

Those agencies, as well as the VA itself, do refer veterans in need to private organizations that provide service dogs, however.

WNY Heroes, a nonprofit that supports veterans coming out of military service, runs the local program known as PAWSitive For Heroes, in which trained service dogs are given to veterans free of charge. WNY Heroes covers the cost of dog training through donations, and covers one year of pet health insurance for the dogs that it acquires and trains.

The issue with Rocky, according to WNY Heroes founder Chris Kreiger, is that he was already Palmer's dog before receiving service training, and the organization could not insure him as a result.

"We can't provide health insurance because we don't know the dog's history," Kreiger said.

In lieu, he added, WNY Heroes gave Palmer a $500 credit for veterinary care at the end of Rocky's training.

Palmer said she has put Rocky's veterinary bill on a CareCredit credit card, and hopes to get it paid off before a higher interest rate kicks in.

Rocky's GoFundMe page can be found at https://gf.me/v/c/c9sg/help-for-veterans-injured-service-dog-rocky.

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(c)2023 the Niagara Gazette (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)

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